Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

Spiral staircase

For the next two weeks we will explore the work of Irene Dowd. This week we will look at Spirals. Here are some links to Irene’s background and information about her work.

Spirals was choreographed in 1991 by Dowd for Canada’s National Ballet School. She continues to allow the specifics of the work to evolve as dancers become more proficient and technical demands on them continually increase. Towards the end of these two weeks, we will discuss how this material could be modified, expanded and applied to specific techniques and styles. Dowd is the author of Taking Root To Fly, a book about functional anatomy and dance.

http://www.dance-teacher.com/2013/03/technique-irene-dowd/

 

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24 thoughts on “Irene Dowd’s ‘Spirals’

  1. Irene Dowd’s technique of incorporating spirals is very interesting and unique. This technique truly allows the dancer to understand how his or her anatomy is working while he or she is moving. The dancer is learning by doing which is a way I like to learn as well. It is one thing for a teacher to tell you to turn out and another thing to physically feel the difference in your body.

    In learning about your anatomy, a dancer can adjust choreography to suit his or her body type. Dowd teaches that dancing should not just be about the beauty of the choreography but it should be safe for the dancer’s body as well. Every individual’s body is different and is capable of doing different things and you need to accommodate and learn according to what your body can handle. Dowd emphasizes that a dancer needs to strengthen the areas of the body that are neglected in order to avoid injury. It is one thing to be flexible but another thing to be strong and controlled. If you do not learn how to balance both, you will injure yourself. Learning about the body teaches us how we can move it in different and more creative ways. If we know what our body is capable of doing we can get more creative with dance and explore new movement.

    In the video about rotation, Irene Dowd takes her time to explain the move step by step. She is going through how to plie and how to fondu. Instead of just telling the dancer to tuck his tail bone and put his knees in line with his toes and to rotate out, she explains it to him with anatomy. After she goes through each step she then tells him to demonstrate and then put all steps together. She is also using visual imagery saying things like, your bone should be rotating in the hip socket and there is an eye at the end of your big toe. This helps the dancer visually understand what he should be doing with his body.

  2. Learning about all these techniques has widened my knowledge about dance. I never knew how complex dance was or how spiral techniques helped shape better movement. I enjoyed learning about spirals because it gave me a different perspective on movement. It’s not always about making the best moves, aesthetically speaking, but moving in a way that is safer for your body or in a way that your body can move. For example, in the video, Dowd would explain to the dancer every step in order to create a ballet movement. Even though I’ve never taken ballet before, it seems helpful to have someone like Dowd explain how to do movement step by step. It also makes you aware of the parts of the body you are moving while doing, for instance, the fondu or the plie. It is a break down process with lots of technicalities in order to create better movement. In addition, when working on some spirals exercises during class, I noticed that it feels good on my body to do these movements and going slow to enjoy every moment of it. Most importantly to know my limits as well because even though I can push my body to do more, I won’t go further, if it doesn’t feel safe. I’ve also been observant throughout the class during the spiral exercises and I noticed that my other classmates find ways to modify a movement if for some reason they are unable to perform it as the professor explains and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think its great to know when your body is capable of doing certain movements and when its not capable. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll never be able to do that movement, but its important to be self aware and not feel bad if they can’t do a certain move. One can always work towards it.

  3. What comes to mind here is the movement in between. So often we try to find the right placement and loose everything in between. This is similar to vinyasa flow yoga, where the time taken from one posture to the next is just as important. The information made me reflect on my own dance background which began at age 19. I never knew where the heck to put the weight on my hip while standing on one leg. One teacher told me not to dump my weight there, another told me to put all my weight there, another told me not to clench and tuck, while another told me flex and lift. This confusion left me quite confused both mentally & physically. But with Dowd’s emphasis on strengthening areas of the body that are neglected, I would have been in a lot better shape, no pun intended. I could have easily applied this to strengthening the supporting leg (the glutes) while lifting out of the socket. Now I can utilize her explanation of the pile fondu & femur rotation that extends all the way to the pinky toe’s eye! I just love it.

    “Ideokinesis; The cerebral cortex (the conscious part of the brain) initiating new patterns in order to re-tune skeletal joint position and motion through visualization.” This previous week we were exploring the spirals movement pattern and I was lacking the visualization of initiating rotation in the joints. After viewing this I tried some of the movement patterns and it felt completely different. Again, super, super cool! I found this to be 100% effective and could feel the difference immediately. Next I applied it while working with the cores engagement and felt 3 inches longer & ten times stronger. Awesome.

  4. I think that definitely as it says in the article “we learn by doing.” This reminded me of when I was in high school and I took a physical anatomy class, in this class I learned all about the body and vocabulary that we have talked about in class. However. when I came to college and I started taking dance classes I found that I had forgotten much of the vocabulary. I agree that this is because we just learn these vocabulary in index cards way which we will eventually forget as we learn other vocabulary and new information. In class I feel that is really helpful how Gerald explains and names the body parts we are using as we go, because this makes helps me remember and picture better what certain words mean.

    As Irene Dowd is teaching movements in the video she is also physically helping the person to precise that specific movement. This I think is helpful because sometimes we need an exterior force, something or someone to help us perform a movement. In this way our body records the feeling and next time we can do it better. Overall I think that this form of learning new dance vocabulary is very efficient and lasting.

  5. As we continue to work with Irene Dowd’s spiraling patterns and techniques, I notice that my senses become highly aware of my body and its surroundings. Although this holds true for all of the other combinations we have learned, I feel that Dowd’s spiraling technique has awakened my senses the most. I say this because when going through the motions of the spiraling sequence, I notice I am highly aware of the body parts that are engaging and attempting to engage. Sure, the sense of feeling is always present when moving, however, I realize the use of the floor while multi-tasking is actually what causes this heightened awareness of mine. The fact that we start on the ground introduces the factor of gravity on a much larger scale. When standing we have to work up against gravity, but because we are in a vertical position, our legs essentially do all of the work for us. Now when we lie on the ground there is a lot more surface area for gravity to push down on, and this makes it difficult for our bodies to move in whatever direction. Yet, because it becomes more difficult to move while parallel to the ground, our bodies recruit different parts of the body and therefore begin engaging familiar and not so familiar muscles/ bones of the body. When doing the starfish for example, I can feel so much of what is being engaged. My thighs, toes, arms, fingers, abs etc. are all a very strong combination of muscles and limbs that I can feel work together at the same time. I really enjoy this strong sense of feeling that I have come to develop with spirals. I love feeling how much control of my body I actually have, it makes me feel quite powerful.

  6. I really like the idea of spirals in dance. I feel as if we normally think to extend and lengthen parts of our body in dance, but by spiraling you incorporate all of those while having a different energy to the movement. I do remember though in ballet I always tended to think of turning out as spiraling each leg down into the ground, it helped me picture not just turning out from the feet but was something that came all the way in the hip socket, this way I would avoid knee injury.

  7. Examining Irene Dowd’s Spirals has given me a more engaged and comprehensive lens with which to view dance. So often dancers are told to tuck in their stomachs, lengthen their tailbones or extend from the top of the spine–but Irene’s work really takes all of these sometimes abstract ideas and really contextualizes them within the body. This provides a foundational anatomy perspective that links together the whole moving body.
    It is interesting to examine the technique of Spirals alongside the principles of doing v. undoing. I have to be careful not to become so excited about being able to do the movement that I over-do everything and disconnect from myself in a performative zone. I think Spirals is a dynamic and grounded approach to dance–equal parts challenging and natural. I feel like there is this metaphorical space where I am doing movement, comfortably and joyfully but not tipping over into overdoing and overextending. Currently, it is a space I don’t inhabit in my dancing, but the last class has alerted me to it’s existence, and I am excited to challenge myself to find that space in the future.

  8. The patterns of Irene Dowd’s spiraling technique that we have gone over the past week or so, feels like an intuitive way to move. I left western dance as a child because it felt too structured and paternalistic. I was a kid, I wanted dance and feel free; I didn’t want to learn technique. As an adult I followed my love of movement first to yoga when I was 16, then to dance to the many spirals and orbits of belly dance. The mindfulness of movement, breathing, and presence of yoga gave me a way to become friends with my body again after years of beating it up in technique classes, then ignoring it when I quit dance. I then found belly dance and fell in love with the circular isolations that seem to explore the anatomical possibilities of the body in a new way. Then after some years of focusing solely on belly dance, I came back to ballet with a new perspective. Ballet now feels like a form of meditation, it is controlled and difficult, but good medicine as a discipline. Now I have a deep love for modern and contemporary dance that feels like a convergence of what I love about yoga, belly dance, and ballet with also the freedom to completely be myself and create my own movement.
    I appreciated the standing combination we did today in class because it reminded me of mixing both ballet/modern technique with the isolations of belly dance. I do this on a regular basis just because they are the languages of dance that I speak, however, doing them in the same exercise felt like a new way to explore the movement and technique of both. It also informed me as to where I get lazy and habitual in my movement and lose presence, as well as what helps me stay present in my body and my movements.

  9. Incorporating anatomy lessons with dance has helped me improve as a dancer. I like the way that Dowd takes the time to teach her dancers about their bodies and how each bone and muscle plays a role in every movement made. In the video, she explains a simple plie to her student in a different way than most students would visualize. A plie is more than just bending the knees, she has the student think about externally rotating the femur in the hip sockets which allows him to focus on a new area and improve. Using spirals is just one of the ways that I think a dancer can really learn to appreciate the body and how it moves. The movements are not big and flashy but they incorporate many muscles and requires so much control. Though difficult, moving through controlled spirals feel natural in my body. I am able to focus on the bones and muscles that are engaged when I dance so I can feel more connected to my body.

  10. What struck me most about Irene Dowd, in the video given, was her use of multiple descriptions to produce a desired affect in the dancer. At first, while the dancer is attempting a developpe at the barre, Irene instructs him to picture his left hip rotating in its socket. The hip is consistently being rotated as the dancer carries his leg from the front of his body to the side of his body. Next, Irene Dowd uses another image to inspire the change the quality of the developpe. She tells the dancer to picture an eye leading from the big toe of the left leg. The eye must see all parts of the room, so the leg, foot and toe must reach long as they are being carried through space.

    It is the combination of these descriptions, one anatomical in nature and one that is powerfully connected to everyday life, that helps the dancer move with the desired affect. In addition, I believe that her multiple descriptions and images make Irene an all-around better instructor. It shows that she acknowledges that people understand concepts in different ways and often learn differently.

    During class, it was helpful when spirals were described in several ways. For example, during a floor spiral, with the shoulders rotating and hip rotating to the left, the anatomical mechanics were described, but also imagery was used. I believed the position was compared to pepper grinder. The combination of the two descriptions allowed me to better see the dynamics of the spiral and I was better prepared to attempt the movement with a different quality than before.

  11. I think it’s really wonderful we are learning about Irene Dowd’s spirals in class. After reading the article and watching the video, I can see how this concept helps create more anatomically aware and strong dancers. I agree that it is important to not only focus on agility and flexibility but also on strength, especially to prevent injuries. This concept also reminds me of something Gerald said in class early in the quarter on the importance of finding the balance between strength and agility. It is definitely important to do both in such a way as to allow for the prevention of injuries but also to be agile.
    I also think it’s really neat that a lot of the concepts mentioned by Irene in the video (rotating femur rather than forcing the knee sideways when doing a rond de jambe) are also mentioned in Gerald’s class a lot. I definitely see Irene’s influence on Gerald, which is wonderful because I think it’s really conducive to think about dance in terms of muscle action, and to also learn about what is rotating or supporting you when dancing.
    This also relates to some things Gerald has said in class about not being shape-driven but instead being movement-driven. In other words, it’s not about creating the shape the movement looks like. Rather, it’s about engaging the right muscles to carry out a movement, such as externally rotating a standing leg in order to better support oneself when doing a rond de jambe (as seen in the video). I am very excited I am learning about dance this way! When dance and movement is described in terms of kinesiology, it is easy to visualize, and you get to learn about which muscles are doing what as well! I personally think it should be required for dancers to study dance in this way if they never have.

  12. I really enjoy Irene’s approach towards teaching. Anatomy, which is typically taught while sitting in a classroom, is taught through dance. Anatomy contains many complicated names for muscles and other various body parts we cannot see from the outside. This can cause anatomy to be an extremely hard concept to understand because it is hard to relate to. Once you add yourself into the learning process it becomes a lot more personal. For example, the extension and contraction of a particular muscle can cause your arm to bend. It may be hard to understand the mechanics of the muscle just from reading about it or seeing a picture in a book. If you, yourself were to bend and extended your arm and feel how the muscle is actually moving it becomes more of a real concept. You personally have a feeling to connect the muscle to.

    I know just from being in this class I have grasped more anatomical concepts because I am moving while learning about them. I’m not only hearing how these various muscles move, but I’m feeling how they move at the same time. Spirals have also made me very aware of how different parts of my body react to movement. The last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed my movement to be more of a full body experience, rather than just isolated movement. The visual of all my body parts being connected in some way has really helped this. I will definitely be applying spirals into my dancing on a regular basis.

  13. Irene Dowd’s Spirals really emphasizes practicing movement awareness. It seems as though often times, dancers are trained to be blind to their bodies; they are taught to turn and leap and move, but they are rarely taught the technicalities of how that movement is facilitated by their body. For instance, the video of Dowd working with a Julliard student reminded me of ballet class when I was about 12 and I was taught to “turn out.” I put the term in quotation marks because the way in which I was told to conceptualize it, was precisely not at all, I was merely told to point my toes in the outward direction, or to “rotate.” But, at 12, I never visualized what this could mean for my muscles and joints and how they interact which one another in order for the “turn out” to happen. When an instructor is able to verbalize and explain the mechanics of the body in direct correlation with the movement it produces, I begin to understand how to use and manipulate my body in correct and functional ways. Spirals in class has allowed me to consciously evaluate each movement and its origin and its purpose as I perform it. My favorite application or variation of the technique was when we found a partner in class and opposed their gravity instead of the floor’s. It demonstrated how opposite forces play a role in the function of the body and drew a parallel to the conceptualization of the tension that is tangible when fully applying consciousness to movement such as extending through the fingers or narrow, concave, and lift. All movement is becoming more purposeful in my body and it feels long overdue.

  14. Learning, understanding and practicing Irene Dowd’s spirals has given me a new perspective of my body in movement. So often dancers dance on this single plane stage; solely dancing to the audience. To my surprise, there is so much more than that, so many different planes to move my body along and add dynamic to my movement. Not only this, Dowd’s spirals in practice work the body in different ways than your typical dancing. Though at first glance the routine seems basic, in practice it keys into muscle groups that are rarely used. These muscle groups, once strengthened, created a stronger and more balanced dancer. My favorite part of the spirals exercise is the close connection with anatomy. I have always loved learning about the inner workings of the body, especially in dancing. Knowing how each movement we doe affects our body creates a smarter dancer; smarter in action, smarter in movement, and smarter in thought. Of course, Dowd’s approach to teaching anatomy is more geared to people like dancers, kinesthetic learners or me. While I have taken an anatomy class before, I have learned much more about the body and my body in dance, and now having been taught Dowd’s ideas, I know more about the dancing body than before. Learning what to do externally and what is gong on internally has created a more aware dancer; aware of how and why the body moves a certain way or feels a certain thing.

  15. “Each piece of anatomical information can inform our dancing right away. It gives us more articulation and clarity.” Anatomy, Dowd says, “opens up the possibilities.”
    I appreciate the way that Irene Dowd bridges the function of anatomy and kinesiology with the possibilities of creative choice. This room for artistry allows for the elasticity and the off kilter moments that magnetize movement to arise and stem from a justified and rooted place, rather than from a clumsy unaware state. To understand the body in this way, for me at least, has changed everything in the way I move and in the way I perceive dance. An anatomical perception has led me away from the aesthetics of dance imposed from the external and social environment and has brought me to the curiosity of simply the body’s moving parts. How is it that these parts (the muscles, the bones, the central nervous system) record and expand upon a history of physical literacy? That is the question that I think about a lot. The fact that physical literacy is adaptable and changing all the time is both the beauty and frustrating aspect of dance. As Stephen Petronio would ask in his work The Architecture of Loss is “how do you build on something that is disappearing?”
    I find that I build on movement by focusing on parts at a time, maybe three things at a time, to challenge myself and gain new information. The frustrating part is that I know I take a risk with any new enlightening information. It might be lost and forgotten as soon as it came or it might actually, if lucky, “stick” and be expanded on. Either way the absorption of movement knowledge isn’t linear, but rather a three dimensional sculpture that undergoes textural changes over time. I feel that when I zoom in, like Dowd’s instruction of spiraling the femur bone in its hip socket, I can go back to that image with great clarity. Therefore it is in these defining details of the human body, one of the more complex machines known to humans, that the artist can be a true mechanic; with the ability to fix, reconstruct, and adapt to their surroundings.

  16. Reading about Irene Dowd, I really admire her work. I can certainly resonate with the statement that intellectual information regarding the body goes in through one ear and out of the other, and must be felt instead. No matter how much we say “twist more”, emphasizing an end product isn’t how we achieve the goal, but rather, as it mentions, “how else should we contract and extend to accomplish a twisting motion”. The way that she explains bodies as three-dimensional isn’t really something that occurred to me until I read it– it’s one thing to realize that we move in three different planes, but to understand that we occupy space through different planes is another. This is where the concept of spirals comes in. The concept of spirals alone implies a constant, active connection from within and throughout the body, better than just a simple engagement of one part of the body, but seemingly similar to connections, like head/tail. This relationship between kinesthetic movement and anatomy is incredibly beneficial on both a health and choreographic purpose level, as stretching into the full movement creates more than just a static picture, but knowing where your muscles and bones are moving keep the body safe, as well as input more intention.

  17. Since we’ve started spirals my body has felt completely different outside of class. I’m almost positive it’s related to the exercise. I feel much more tight within my body and more grounded in movement than I have before. For me, this exercise was a really fun way to warm up, and although it’s challenging, each time I do it I feel like there more to improve. And it’s a different sort of improvement, it’s a tangible improvement where I know what I need to do to improve rather then being clueless. It is very refreshing and encouraging while doing the movement exercise.
    When we did the exercise standing up and with a partner it felt completely different. I think I would like to try it again standing up just as a way to integrate the physicality of the movement from within.
    One thing I’ve loved about this class from the first day is the integration of anatomy terms when describing the movement. I will eventually take an anatomy class and I think personally I would benefit from learning about anatomy as Dowd teaches at Julliard and how we have discussed it in class. Whenever I tell people I’m a premed neuroscience major and dance minor a typical response is “oh wow so you’re at both ends of the spectrum”, but I’ve never seen it as such. I definitely view dance as a way to further understand the human body and how the brain works in tandem with these complex movements and I have been exposed to so much of it over the quarter!
    The spirals series is something I want to continually work on outside of class to further improve my understandings of anatomy and improve my strength and skills within dance.

  18. From a young age I knew that there were different kind of joints in the body. Ive known of two important ones: hinge joints, and ball and socket joints. I also learned, at a young age, that in ballet class, we turn out. Our toes point outward as we stand in first position, we want the knee to press to the side, not rolling onto the inside of our feet. Our knees must be over our toes or we are turning out more than we should. Our knee should press side in posse, ect.. I knew these things like I knew the alphabet. However, because of the nature of my dance education, I rarely questioned what turn out really was, anatomically. It was just turn out, and you wanted it! So we would stretch and strengthen and hope for some progress along the way.

    When I took one of Gerald’s classes for the first time last year I was not prepared to question my past. I did not challenge the technique that was previously hammered into my mind. I took Gerald’s teachings as tips, or add ons to what I had already known. During our spirals unit, I would zone out, thinking I had heard all of this turn out talk too many times, and it was more constructive to plan out my day in my head( or something of the tangential sort). I did focus on picking up the material, but I did not interact with it. I didn’t realize that I was allowed to explore my body and question my past dance education. I wanted so desperately for everything I had learned and everything I was learning to be the same, to be what I have heard over and over. I remember watching this same video thinking, “yeah yeah, I know.” I was convinced I knew it all.

    Last summer I had a humbling revelation. In a rudimentary ballet class, I found that in order to improve my technique, I must question everything I knew to be true; I must question the basics. What IS turn out? Why DOES my lower back extend when I try to turn out? What can I do about it? What can I do to accumulate a greater understanding of my body in the studio? I started to play, ask questions, mess up on purpose. I was humbled by the mere fact that I was not nearly done learning.

    This class has humbled me even more. I stepped into this class this quarter with a perspective much different to the one I had last year. I thought to myself, clean the slate, empty the mind, question everything. This was my intent for the class every afternoon. This mindset especially helped when we were learning different styles with the guest professors. I pleasantly surprised myself in my ability to let go of my past training. I did not worry when my feet were floppy. I did not cringe when I saw something or did something “wrong.”

    This year, spirals feel extremely different. The term, “turn out,” rarely comes into my mind though we are externally rotating in our hip sockets. We are externally and internally rotating in our arms too! I love to close my eyes and really feel the twisting, the spiraling, the massaging of the joints. My body thanks me every warm up. There is no pain, only comfort and rich proprioceptive sensations. Its like wringing out a towel full of toxins and forced unnatural shapes. Rolling around the floor, feeling the spirals in all types of twisting. Twisting from head to toe. It feels different every time, but always juicy and yummy. We are anatomically complex, and to move in a complex way feels only natural. I am always left wanting more, knowing that there is, in fact, infinitely much more.

  19. Recognizing that movement is a dynamically interopable affair, engineered by a myriad cast of collaborating components, the spiral technique has really taught me some core fundamentals of kinestheic expression. As Dowd’s work, largely explored in, “Taking Root to fly” explores, the spiral movements can really bring out the vaired degrees of exertion, which muscles are dynamically engaged or static, and the tension and compression fluctuation between antagonistic and protaganistic leverage points, manifested in dance routines. I have witnessed this take place in my body in a very real way. I have recognized that I am not able to a complete a technique without the intimate awareness Dowd’s approach reveals in kinestic action.

    This awareness, related to the spiral movements and more, has produced the benefit of recognizing and controlling the co-orchestrated anatomical points of my body, responsible for executing techniques in class. While I am no where near mastering the utilization of her techniques, I have developed a greater sensitivity, a more actualized feel for the complex skeletal-muscular agents involved in performing the spiral and more. From developing this greater anatomical awareness, I am doubly benefited by a fundamental understanding of which muscles to fire at full speed, partial speed, and not all, providing my body a hedge of protection from injury. The bumps and bruises, soreness and strain, while still manifest, have markedly subsided from my body. This is a direct result of Dowd’s principles in application.

    Looking forward, I can see an accumulative net-gain by employing these techniques not just in dance, but in the everyday mundane movements in life. Even now, while at a raised desk, in standing position, I can recognize the subtle intercomplementary synergistic support cast of anatomical componentry at work to stablize, and strengthen my posture. This ‘holistic recognition’ will surely exponeniate future physiological gains in strength, conditioning, and in the execution of complex posturing, and in the perhaps overlooked psychological gain of confidence, from the cognitively coordinated resonance between brain and body. In very real terms, I have watched how my speech delivery and front-stage performance has evolved into a more clear, crisp, and fluid expression. I am grateful for such extended benefits, and recognize that Dowd’s techniques, coupled with Gerald’s style of teaching, are directly responsible for this new growth.

  20. If we do not understand and think about the actual anatomical functions of our movement (rather than IDEAS about how a movement should look), then how will we be able to utilize our bodies in the most effective way? Prior to my introduction to modern technique classes in college, I had never had a dance teacher explain what “spirals” are, or how they can be used to connect mind and body for the most successful result. In my ballet classes growing up, while practicing turn out in passe, I always heard phrases like: “push the knee out.” Phrases like this are so hard for me to understand. When I hear something like this, I think brute force and unnatural movement, coming from who knows where. But the way Irene Dowd uses imagery in her statements (i.e. “actively rotate the thigh”) to highlight and draw attention to the spiraling happening in the body, I really find that dance fundamentals are easier to grasp and understand.

  21. When we first started Spirals, I was intrigued by the concept of a warm up that would use the movements that the dances themselves would use. I thought it would be much more difficult and strenuous that it turned out to be. Don’t get me wrong, Spirals is very difficult and I could see myself working on it for the rest of my life, but the movements feel good to do. I can really feel how the movements are supposed to flow together and can conceptualize what types of movement each segment is supposed to train for. I also really enjoyed how Spirals can be taught to dancers of many ages and levels. The fact that the movement is supposed to be sustainable also intrigued me. In my time learning dance, I have always been taught to give everything I have for every movement. I was never taught to conserve my energy or learn to embrace the feel of the movement. Everything was about the shape and technical aspects of the dance. Learning Spirals has given me a chance to unlearn some of this, and instead work on feeling the movement in my body.

  22. I can’t help but compare learning spirals to the Horton technique classes I’ve taken. We spent a lot of time on each specific movement, how our bodies should be moving and feeling, and we took away the mirror, which I felt was absolutely necessary. I found spirals to be difficult; the movements were new to my body and required a good amount of strength and flexibility. I really appreciated that we spent to much time on it because that much time is needed to focus in on your body and truly feel each movement. Only then did we speed up after I grasped a better sense of each movement’s objective. In Horton, we worked in similar processes: going through every step very slowly and meticulously, making sure we weren’t taking any shortcuts. Taking away the mirror also forces the dancers to really tune in to how the movement feels, rather than how it looks. I appreciate these techniques because I can feel them not only improving my strength and flexibility but also my awareness of body and space.

  23. I really enjoyed working on the spirals technique because, for some reason, it always felt really good on my lower back. I have lower back problems and sometimes doing twists or spirals relieved that pain I had. I think what I found really interesting about Irene Dowd’s technique about body movement is how she focuses more on the awareness of the anatomy and what our bodies are doing rather than focusing on shortening or lengthening certain parts of our bodies when going through certain movements (A good example would be lengthening the spine). In a way, her technique is similar to the Alexander Technique because that technique also focuses on becoming more aware of what is the body doing. Often, people are not aware if they are engaging certain bodies or not and dancers sometimes focus on doing exactly how the movement “should” look like that they often forget to engage other parts of their body, like their head.

    I think learning how to engage the whole body and becoming aware of it was a bit challenging for me. I normally liked to focus on the steps first before going through the movements, but when I focused too much on that, I often lost engagement with my head where I was not turning my focus to certain directions as I was moving. For instance, when going through the tendu exercise that we would always do towards the end of class, I would focus too much on the steps that I would not turn my head towards my hand as it moved behind me or in front of me. Hearing the phrase “Turn your f****ing head” in class helped me engage that part of my body more and realize when is it that I am focusing too much on the steps and not engaging the whole body..

  24. Irene Dowd’s Spirals has completely changed the way I view “contraction” and “extension”. I feel like the techniques presented were not new, but as we talked about in the language through dance unit, the way she describes narrow, concave, and lift clicked so much better than just tighten your core. I don’t know whether the term suck in your belly was the industry standard or is just more understandable to children, but I realize now that I needed to be doing much more than just sucking in my gut. I think its funny how we use language like squeeze your butt or straighten your leg when we could be focusing more on channeling the energy and directing out focus on a holistic bodily movement. I think this exercise uses muscles and body parts that are often neglected by dancers. It feels smooth and natural, yet you can still feel where your trouble areas lie.

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